The Bernie Sanders movement has been impressive in Alaska. On March 26th thousands of disciples of The Bern flocked to Democratic caucus locations around the state to participate in the nominating process for President. Caucus-goers let their voices be heard and the state felt their collective power.
Now, the Sanders campaign is using a little known party rule to bar 222 of their own supporters from being Alaska delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia later this summer.
It’s a move many party activists and at least one state legislator is calling “shameful” and “disenfranchising”.
But let’s begin at the beginning.
At the Alaska Democratic Party caucuses in March Democrats voted on how many of Alaska’s 16 allocable delegates each presidential contender should get. Bernie Sanders, with 81% of the vote, was awarded 13 Alaska delegates.
Many Sanders backing caucus goers stuck around after the caucus itself in order to run to be a delegate from their local district to the state convention, and if they won, put their name in contention to be one of the 13 Sanders delegates at the national convention.
270 Bernie supporters completed that entire, hours-long process.
Traditionally then, they would all show up to the state convention. The factions representing each of the national candidates would separate into their own groups and elect from among themselves who would get the spots reserved for their preferred candidate.
In this case the 270 Sanders supporters would choose who among them would get the one of the 13 spots for Sanders.
Everyone I talked to had assumed this year would be no different, but it will be.
Many of those Sanders supporting delegates were blindsided in the past week when they were informed the Sanders campaign has decided to take advantage of the provisions of Rule 12 of the party’s Delegate Selection Plan under which national campaigns can effectively veto the names of those who are eligible to represent Sanders as delegates at the national convention.
According to Fairbanks State House Representative and former Alaska Democratic Party Chairman David Guttenberg, that is a provision rarely used in Alaska, “I don’t think it’s ever been used, not in thirty years.” Traditionally, he said in a phone interview, national campaigns let state convention goers vet their own delegates for selection.
Not this year.
According to Alaska Democratic Party spokesman Jake Hamburg on April 22nd the party received from the Bernie Sanders campaign a list of delegates they approved to represent his campaign at the national convention. Of the 270 Bernie supporters going to the state convention who indicated they were interested in going to the national convention only 48 were approved.
222 Bernie backers’ names were effectively vetoed.
Hamburg wrote in an email response The Midnight Sun’s questions, “Hillary Clinton’s campaign chose to approve all applicants to the national convention.” Hamburg went on to say the full list of those who were approved by the Sanders campaign won’t be made public until the state convention.
In response to an emailed question Monday Hamburg said ADP hasn’t sought such assistance, “The ADP did not ask the Sanders campaign for help with meeting the diversity requirements and statewide representation goals.”
When asked in an interview Monday afternoon why the Sanders campaign choose to invoke the “Right of Review” rule and use it on such a massive scale Jill Yordy, Statewide Coordinator for the Sanders campaign said in an interview “Our campaign looked through the Delegate Selection Plan and did our best to uphold our responsibilities” and “We are doing our best to ensure diversity goals are met. Then there is also the requirement, and our obligation to Bernie Sanders to make sure that the delegates that are going pledged to him are 100% committed to Bernie.”
On how excluding 222 of 270 (82%) potential choices for national delegates promotes diversity Yordy said “the original list significantly over represented communities on the road system and significantly under represented communities off the road system.”
Rep. Guttenberg didn’t take kindly to those explanations in an interview yesterday saying the Sanders campaign’s actions are “pretty shameful.”
He said the rule is being misapplied by the Sanders campaign, “It’s there in case there are people there who aren’t suppose to be there, but never before to willow down and only allow certain people to even run for elections. It’s shameless what they are doing.”
And Guttenberg isn’t buying the diversity explanation either, saying,“That’s not how its done. You don’t pre-determine who the candidates are by willowing it down to 50 because you don’t know who is going to be elected. Filling out the diversity happens as you are having the elections, not before hand. That’s a horrible excuse for eliminating people and it’s never been done that way. They are creating problems that have never existed before” and “The Sanders campaign is disenfranchising people.”
Guttenberg went on to point out a what he sees as a major irony of the situation “The problem is the Sanders campaign plays as if they are come with a higher calling, but they are doing the things they accuse the DNC and the Hillary campaign of doing, and now they are doing it.”
When asked if he thought the situation could drag down turn out to the state convention Guttenberg said he thought it would, “Why would you go? All people want is the chance (to go to the national convention), but they are telling them there is no chance.”